MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — In an unusually speedy process, the state on Monday granted itself a certificate of need — essentially a state permit — for a new public psychiatric hospital in Berlin to replace the Waterbury facility that was closed by flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Irene.
Just three days after a public hearing to air the merits of the proposal, the Department of Mental Health's plan for a 25-bed hospital near the Central Vermont Medical Center won approval from the Department of Financial Regulation. Officials hope to have it open by January 2014.
DFR Commissioner Steve Kimbell noted Vermont has been scrambling since Irene hit in late August 2011 to find places for its mental health patients. By last winter, a plan gelled and won legislative approval to have the 54-bed Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury replaced by the smaller hospital in Berlin, along with a series of still smaller psychiatric units around the state in Brattleboro, Morrisville, Rutland, Burlington and elsewhere.
While that plan has been in the works, officials have struggled to find adequate placements for patients who would have gone to Waterbury. Some have languished for days under police guard in the emergency rooms of community hospitals, waiting for an inpatient bed to open up.
"This has put tremendous pressure on the state's ability to care for Vermonters will serious mental illness," Kimbell said in a statement announcing his approval of the certificate of need. "Our mental health care providers are to be commended for their hard work and dedicated service during this difficult time."